viv la difference!

Today I came across yet another group of people who seem completely ignorant as to the differences between Vanity and Self / Indie Publishing, and I have to admit, that kind of ignorance drives me up a wall.

I could ignore them, and I do for the most part, but I realize there are some out there who honestly don’t understand the difference. Some who are trying to get it straight in their own minds, or who would like to explain it to others.

So it’s for them that I’d like to put things very simply –

Vanity = Pay-to-Play

Self Publishing = Blood, sweat and effort.

If you’ve paid someone to take your novel and make it possible for yourself and others to purchase copies – if you’ve given a company several hundred to several thousand dollars to format, perhaps proof read, and set up your work in a POD model, then sold you a few hundred copies or promised you, for a fee, that you’d receive a blurb in some promotional paper somewhere – you’ve been Vanity published. If you forked over your hard earned cash to purchase a “package” of promotional materials, received a trunk load of your own book, and are under the impression you’ve just hit the big time – you’ve been Vanity published. If you’ve fallen for the idea that giving someone money will cause you to become a Published Writer of Books – you’ve been Vanity published.

If your book wouldn’t exist without you having cracked open your checkbook, you’ve been Vanity published.

If this makes you happy, then I’m happy for you. Some people enjoy being Vanity published, have the cash to spend, and get pleasure out of doing it. Vanity in it’s many forms has separated humans from their cash since Time began, and will continue to do so until we are all dust and silicone implants.

Vanity publishing isn’t bringing down the industry, ruining anyone’s chances for legitimate or Indie publishing, or “dumbing down” the reading public. Vanity has no effect whatsoever on traditional publishing because it never, ever, not even once, sits on the shelf next to a traditional title. The only way a Vanity published book makes it into the bookstore is if the author carries it in his or her self. Book buyers never see them, never know they exist.

Right now, a bunch of writers and wannabes have their panties in a bunch because the traditional romance publisher Harlequin is offering up vanity publishing. I’ve seen posts and blogs decrying the end of life as we know it, the dilution of a time-honored brand, and whoa-is-me fears of rubbing elbows with the unwashed.

Vanity has existed for a long, long time, and it hasn’t ruined traditional publishing yet. Again, those books don’t sit on the shelves in the bookstores. They’re not promoted, they don’t even get within sniffing distance of the NYT best sellers list. Oprah wouldn’t even stoop over to kick one aside.

In other words – OMG what’s the BFD?

Did you all forget Publishing is a business? And Business exist to make money. And there’s money to be made in Vanity publishing. Craptons of it. Too many writers and writer-hopefuls have a very exalted view of writing and the business of publishing that, frankly, just isn’t true. They should be more upset by the fact that most of the publishing houses now are really owned by only a very few mega conglomorates. Business people who probably haven’t read a fiction title since they were in Jr. High.

Now, how does Vanity differ from Self or Indie publishing?

Simple. No money exchanges hands.

The Self published author is using POD, via Lulu or Createspace or whathaveyou, to make their novel available to the buying public. They’ve done their own editing, proofing and formatting. They’ve probably purchased an ISBN (more on that further down this post) and they still own every single copyright allocated to their work. A Self published author hasn’t spent a single dime. The only expense is if he or she wanted to purchase a copy for themselves.

What about an Indie published author? What’s the difference, then, between Self publishing and Indie publishing?

That’s simple, too, and it boils down to a personal choice.

Where the Self published author will have used Lulu, or Createspace, et al, to purchase/supply an ISBN for their book – the Indie author hasn’t.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll remember that if you allow Lulu or Createspace or whoever you’re using to assign the ISBN to your book – they own that ISBN. You haven’t given up any rights, but they own your ISBN number. So while you’re a Self published author, there’s a tiny little piece of your work that you don’t own.

Is that a big deal? Only you can answer that. I say no, it’s not, but it’s a very personal choice and has some ramifications, mostly involving price. Let Lulu put an ISBN on your book, for instanct, and not only do they own that, they’re going to jack up the price of your book for the privilege of being listed in Bowkers and available to all chain retail outlets. Your paperback just went from retailing at $14.95 to a retail price of $37.95 – with all of the added profit going everywhere but your wallet.

The Indie author has either purchased his/her own ISBN, listing him/her self as the publisher of record – or – has opted not to bother with an ISBN altogether.

That, again, is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong here, including Vanity. If you realize what you’re getting when you dive in, and desire to swim in that pool regardless, then there IS no right or wrong. There is no inferior or superior, either.

And yes, I’m talking to you Traditionally published writers, as well. You’re not better than the Vanity, Self or Indy – you’re simply Different. You are Other Than. The Traditional author’s novel has been vetted by an agent, and editor, and a publishing company – and will get to spend a little time sitting on a bookstore shelf.  That is an important distinction, but not the golden ticket to Wonkaville.

The Self published, the Indie published, and even the Vanity people, are vetted by the reading public. They do not sit on bookstore shelves, but they are also not subject to remaindering. They’re not going to reach the NYT best seller list, but sometimes they sell more copies than a mid list author. They won’t get shiny display space in Barnes & Noble, but they won’t be removed from the shelf to make room for the next big title, either. Among the Self and Indies are just as many gems as the Traditionals, and just as many steaming piles of illiterate goo as the Traditionals (it’s all a matter of taste, determined by each individual reader). Which is why some love Twilight while others would rather scoop out their corneas with a soup spoon.

I have more to say about ISBN’s and why I’ve chosen not to use them, but I’ll save that for the next post. Until then,

Power to the People!

Make Love, not War!

No way are those boobs real!





One thought on “viv la difference!

  1. Well, thanks, I didn’t know there was a difference. I always thought the two terms, vanity and self-publishing were interchangeable. In my thinking, since neither is published by a real publisher they were the same thing. *shrugs* Now I know.

    And, I thought the reason everyone was in an up roar was because Harlequin was starting a Vanity Press where they could steal your money by claiming it is a way for inexperienced authors to get published. Isn’t that the crux of the anger? That Harlequin has created this publishing arm that will pick-pocket the unwary writer of upwards of thousands of dollars?

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